As I follow the Jena 6 case, I have come to the conclusion that our news media have displayed ineptitude above and beyond their normal limits. At this point, a reasonable reviewer of the reports of the events that went on in that town has little chance of possessing a complete and factual account. Regardless of the various arguments to the contrary, I am convinced that the malignancy that is our criminal justice system has once again reared its ugly head, displaying its overt racism and classism.
What disturbs me even more, however, is what I perceive to be a growing sentiment – that in time, our justice system with its various appeals and retrials will sort everything out and justice will eventually be served. Perhaps, in my childhood, I might have believed such a fantasy. But, the hard reality is that there still exist too many factions vested in a racist system of law enforcement and in a society that fails to invest in the future of our children regardless of their social status, family background, or ability.
I do not believe we can wait for the laborious process of evolution to eventually produce in this country a legal system that is color blind, or a school funding formula that does not favor the rich. The reality is that evolution consists not only of gradual change and adaptation, but also radical change and mutation. And, since we face forces with powerful resources invested in the status quo. We must be willing to be change agents.
The young men charged in the Jena 6 case are not angels. So what? Neither were their white counterparts who walked away with no charges and no potential for massive prison sentences. This community failed these young people and they should not be held liable. They and their families should not have to sacrifice years of their lives and all of their financial and emotional resources fighting unjust charges. This nation is failing another generation of young people and we should be held liable if we do not advocate for radical change in our legal system, our schools, our taxation practices, and our government funding policies.